To get to Kenya on Friday, I need to take two flights, about 8-10 hours for each flight. I’m a really shy person so I don’t always talk to the stranger sitting next to me. But once in a while, I do end up interacting with them (intentionally and unintentionally) and I’ve met some pretty interesting people that way.
– On my way back home from Paris I met a tan, weathered Englishman who told stories of being on the verge of locating the Ark of the Covenant (the one from Moses’ time). I asked him what he was going to do if he found it. He said he was going to tour it around the world and raise money and eventually cure death. Literally. No joke.
– There was this kooky but sweet older Lebanese lady who didn’t speak much English and had a lot of fun with the stewardesses on British Air. She didn’t like her meal so she put it back on their serving cart and took another. Because her English was so limited, the most of the Cockney stewardess could do was scold her by saying “You know what . . . you’re very cheeky, you are!”
– This didn’t happen on an airplane, but on a train in France. A young French man with Down Syndrome had to get off at a station stop and was having trouble getting his bag down from the shelf. Trains in France literally give you 90 seconds to get on and off at the various stops in between major destinations. The man couldn’t get off the train in time and the train started moving. Of course, he started to panic. The he started frantically doing a driving gesture (as if he were holding a steering wheel in his hands) to a male passenger sitting next to him and pointing outside. The passenger ignored him. The poor guy was clearly trying to get help. I was watching all this happen and was really disappointed that none of the French people on that train car were willing to help this disabled man or get involved. They just opened their newspapers and magazines and pretended that he wasn’t there.
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, so I decided to get involved and help this man myself. I told the disabled man in French that everything would be alright and that I’d find the engineer who would take him back to the station. I went to the food car and explained the situation to the lady running the cafe and she summoned the engineer. He came out and spoke to the man and made arrangements to bring him where he needed to be. Even if I didn’t speak French, I would try and do something to help this man. Shame on those indifferent French people! And they call us the Ugly American?
– This one happened on an escalator. I was on an escalator at the Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris, minding my own business and looking out at the views of the city. I’m in a museum for goodness sake, so I really have my guard down because nothing creepy or weird ever happens to you in a museum. I was wrong about that. Keep in mind that this whole experience happened in about 60 seconds but here’s the play-by-play.
Out of nowhere, this very tall Frenchman gets dangerously close to me on the escalator. My first reaction was “Oh, no, he’s going to pick my pocket!” Instead of robbing me, he put his hand around my waist and pulls me close. “Oh no, he’s going to feel me up and THEN he’s going to rob me!” was my next thought. The minute my brain processed that thought (which was 0.2 seconds later), the guy starts gently rubbing my stomach with his free hand.
Believe me, had we been on an escalator in the Paris Metro, I would have thrown this guy down the stairs faster than he could say “Crazy American!” I expect to deal with crazy people out in public and am prepared to be as rude and violent as I need to be. But because we were in a MUSEUM, my logical brain was really having a hard time comprehending that this was happening in a museum, so my ability to react was really thrown off.
Finally, I managed to abandon my need to resolve the logic of why is this happening to me in a museum, and I pushed the man away and said “NO!” The tall man suddenly, for the first time, looks down and gets a good look at me and is COMPLETELY MORTIFIED. Then, we both hear a female voice calling his name and we both turn around, and a couple of steps above us on the escalator is the French version of me, his girlfriend. This man’s girlfriend was exactly my height, she had her hair in a ponytail just like me and we eerily had chosen to wear very similar outfits that day. After a brief pause, she realized what had happened and was doubled over with laughter. Her boyfriend, on the other hand, looked like he just kissed Hitler. I managed to nervously laugh about it and tell the boyfriend that it was an honest mistake, but I was glad to get off that escalator.
I like to imagine this adorable French couple, happily married now and living somewhere in Paris. Every time he puts his arm around her, he instinctivly looks down at her, gets a really good look at her face and then relaxes before touching her.